All posts by Mr Hari Covert

I am a passionate foodie, former chef and also ex hotel & restaurant inspector. I have been immersed in food for over forty years so its been a lifetimes work...

Mardens Ruin…

When I heard that drink “Mothers Ruin” or Gin was now being made in Marden I had to find out more…It was some two years ago that scientists Andy & Norman started their fabrication of Gin. (Some might have then said this was the downhill slide for Marden!)   Anno Distillers are the first distillers of this much loved drink in the county of Kent for over 200 years.

Well it was a friend who reminded me of them and so I set about introducing myself and I can now report we are excited to say our October dinner event will be hosted by Andy and Norman at their Marden based distillery.

It is not a glamorous location on an industrial estate beside the Ashford to London rail line but what lies behind the steel shutters is a real Aladdin’s cave. The ex scientists have built their own still and after much testing and tinkering they launched their craft gin made with local botanicals and a few added ingredients one would not expect. Namely foraged samphire and local hops to give their gin its unique taste and style. Added to this they also make a Sloe Gin and a very drinkable flowery Elderflower & Vodka.

What could be more fitting than a dinner using all three of their labours in the dishes we create. So after some sampling and thought I have decided to attempt to cook and serve on site the following menu. No mean feat as they have no kitchen and so we have had to be clever in the way the menu has been constructed!

The dinner will be housed within the distillery on the first floor overlooking the very sexy looking copper and polished metal still – a single table in amongst boxes of gin and other packaging awaiting to be filled will be the back drop. Andy and Norman will be in attendance to guide guests through their story and how their gin is made. It will be a fascinating evening and one that will be very popular I am sure.

We are asking guests to arrive for 7:15pm so they can firstly sample a welcoming G&T along with some seasonal and possibly gin inspired nibbles. Norman or Andy (or both) will provide a guided tour of the process before guests will then sit down for the dinner.

We will kick off with a dish using their sloe gin – I have asked a friend to import from Switzerland (he is coming over for the September “Fowl Feast”) some Dörrbohnen (dried green beans – A Hari Covert Meal would be bereft without some green beans!) These beans are braised and will with the addition of some fresh blanched ones form the base of a salad with the addition of some pan fried wood pigeon breasts. Garnished with some local Toasted Cob Nuts All this will be dressed with the Anno Sloe Gin based vinaigrette… I am drooling just typing this…

We will then follow this with the main course – I had agonised what to do but because of the limited cooking facilities I have opted for a Pork Fillet with an Anno Gin, Juniper and Blueberry Sauce – we will be cooking the pork fillet wrapped in thin sliced cured ham in a large Paella pan – we plan to serve these with a Pommes Boulangere… we will poach thinly sliced potatoes and onions in a chicken stock that will then be crisped on the top using a blow torch.. we have to be resourceful when there is no oven! Finely shredded cabbage will be simply steamed with some butter and served as the vegetable.

Following the main we will serve dessert – a break from our normal format of cheese before pudding. We are using the Anno Elderflower & Vodka for a Jelly infused with local fresh raspberries and then some homemade shortbread biscuits will accompany this.

Finally the cheese will be the local Winterdale Shaw served simply with our Porridge Oat Biscuits and a dollop of our homemade banana Jam and a snifter of Sloe Gin to wash it all down… we think it will be the best way to complete the evening.

Coffee and some Gin and Lemon Fudge will be the final offering.

Menu

Welcome G&T with seasonal nibbles

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Dörrbohnen & Green Bean Salad with Toasted Cob Nuts and Pan Fried Wood Pigeon with Anno Sloe Gin vinaigrette.

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Cured Ham wrapped Pork Fillet with Gin, Juniper & Blueberry Sauce, Pommes Boulangere & Steamed Cabbage

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Elderflower Vodka & Raspberry Jelly with Homemade Shortbread Biscuits

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Winterdale Shaw,Banana Jam & Porridge Oat Biscuits with Sloe Gin Snifter

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Coffee with Gin & Lemon Fudge

Menu Subject to Ingredient Availability & Market Purchases

Arrival:  7:15pm

Dinner: 8:00pm

Suggested Donation : £45.00 per person (service not included)

If you wish to be part of this very unique event then please book quickly as we are limited to just twelve spaces each night. Just complete the booking form below and we will contact you within 24 to 48 hours to confirm the booking.

All about the service…

Well during the past few months I have had quite a few eating out experiences of both a good and bad nature.  Having made a living out of restaurant reviewing in the past as both an “Egon Ronay Guides” inspector and also an “AA Guides” patch inspector my tastes have developed to appreciate firstly much simpler food where the ingredients provenance takes centre stage.

I have however begun to appreciate far more the service proffered by an establishment as also being an integral part of the whole experience.

I recently found myself for a few days in the West Country and we had a rather posh afternoon tea at a newly opened 5 star hotel – the Afternoon Tea served was £30 a head and whilst generous in proportion was not so memorable for the quality of the offer. Firstly sandwiches when delivered did not match the menu description and the chefs predilection for tomato in them was rather overzealous.

Scones whilst home-made were stodgy and stale, jam and cream was however generous. Cakes and pastries were pretty unimaginative and amateurish – a tartlette case filled with meringue needed the citric base to compensate for the sweetness. A chocolate cake and a caramel mille feuille were also nothing special and the only saving grace was the fresh fruit tartlette.

An apfel strudel with vanilla sauce was also out of place as a tea time treat – more in keeping as a restaurant dessert was also soggy and not in the least bit dainty!

The only saving was friendly and concerned service from a young but professional team of staff who held it all together and helped redeem the food quality misgivings.

A couple of days later we then had a meal in the depths of Cornwall at an establishment in a very busy and bustling coastal town that is dominated by a certain celebrity chef.

We went to his “Bistro” operation for a dinner. It was a return visit since we had had a memorable lunch some nine years earlier. Whilst the food was spot on and highlighted well the great produce on offer from fresh local scallops served with a truffle butter to an amazing combination of John Dory, Grilled Baby Leeks, Soft Boiled Egg and shaved Parmesan  cheese that was an enlightening combination. It was however the service we had that was more memorable. Young staff were engaging, sociable and efficient throughout so much so it was refreshing to watch and made the evening all the more memorable!

The day afterwards at a seaside Cafe we visited for a traditional Cornish clotted cream tea there was a slightly annoying pre-order system at a bar counter and then your order was delivered to your chosen table. Not ideal, but acceptable except what annoys me more is waiting staff who walk past a laden table of a previous occupants detritus that is not cleared by them… somewhat all to apparent at this canal side eatery that whilst popular lacked the slickness of the previous nights dinner.

My other pet hate is the “Nandos” concept of sitting at a table and then being made to go to a till to order and pre pay – My disabled wife has been discriminated before with this concept  and forced to send our young daughter to order and pay. A visit to chain of burger restaurants using such a format was underwhelming and confirmed my favourite style of this eatery is the “poetically named group” found all over London who has continually delivered great service and a very consistent product in each of their places. My daughter is now hooked on them as are all of her school friends.

Whilst eating with friends at one of Mr Raymond White’s bustling restaurants a mistake to our dessert order was handled with great aplomb and apologetic efficiency that left us impressed with the establishment and happy to return at a future date as opposed to a negative and disgruntled attitude!

Our visit to a wonderful restaurant with rooms in deepest north Devon owned and operated by friends admittedly was made more special by the service proffered that was concerned, measured and efficient throughout our visit. From the welcome cup of tea on arrival to a coffee served in the lounge whilst writing up a report to a sumptuous dinner and well cooked breakfast reminded us how committed you need to be to be hospitable and successful. This couple have now done some 15 plus years in their own business and just one look at the positive and glowing feed back on their trip advisor rating speaks volumes for their dedicated professionalism. I am not surprised they are trying to now sell up and take things a little bit easier as they work long hours and very hard to maintain their loyal and appreciative guests! I wish I had the energy and money to invest in their truly lovely place. I thoroughly recommend a visit to see how it should be done.

Whilst the food is important the service can make or break the experience and the rise in popularity of TripAdvisor hated by many a chef in my mind when you read between the lines is a useful tool to ensure you do not waste your money!

I can thoroughly recommend the following as they provided some truly memorable meals and service over the past few months… I will not bore you with the not so good!

St Petrocs Bistro

Blagdon Manor

Byron Burgers

Restaurant Aquar’aile

Cultural differences…

Well I have been watching the BBC 2 series about Chinese School “Are our are kids tough enough” – despite it’s infuriating editing making it seem a disastrous experience it does illustrate very well the differences between ours and their cultures.

This was also brought home to me following a recent visit of a young 15 year old Singaporean lad who spent two weeks staying with my family for some culinary mentoring.

His very polite and respectful nature for such tender years was refreshing – his eagerness to learn was also commendable – unlike some of the 15 year olds on the TV programme.

It was however the visit we made together to France for an eating and shopping fest that also illustrated to me how different our cultures are with just twenty plus mile of water between us!

We paid visits to some French hypermarkets… he was in awe of the 50 plus checkouts/tills and the range of produce on sale. We then paid a visit to a weekly market in the village of Etaples where the range of fresh seasonal produce was breathtaking. Fresh peaches apricots and nectarines were cheap and great quality alongside an amazing array of fresh tomatoes.

Stalls selling just cheese, fresh fish or one selling a freshly made Paella or another a spit roasted chicken all seemed quite exotic. We had also visited earlier in the week the farmers market in Tonbridge and whilst the produce on show was good the price differentials were eye watering. It seems that twenty plus miles of water has a great deal to answer for.

John Dory with a ginger beurre blanc sauce
John Dory with a ginger beurre blanc sauce

We also paid a visit to the local fish market after having had a wonderful fish based lunch at Perard in nearby Le Touquet – a hugely popular  and busy restaurant that seemed ever popular (it had been many years since my last visit) their infamous fish soup still as good as ever! The range of fish on offer at the Etaples fish market was stunning and so fresh looking – we succumbed to a purchase of three large John Dory at an eye watering forty plus euros. Worth every penny when we the next day filleted them and cooked them for supper.

It all illustrated very well how different our cultures are and respecting this is key to ensuring we appreciate what is on offer. It never ceases to amaze me how we expect to be able to eat an out of season strawberry at Christmas or an asparagus spear imported from thousands of miles away instead of only consuming when in season and more locally sourced.

We should all embrace cultural differences and what they can contribute to our daily lives and not treat them with suspicion or fear…

Rant over…

Fowl Feast…our September menu

Well it has been a very hectic Summer for us… apologies for my tardiness in posting and getting our menus up to date. Will reveal a little more on what has been going on in a separate post.

So for our September menu on Friday 25th & Saturday 26th September we will be offering what we term a fowl feast… to kick the dinner off we will serve a smooth unctuous Chicken Liver Parfait that will have a homemade Onion Chutney with it. A classic combination. For the main course we will then serve a crispy Duck Leg Confit that will have a selection of roasted root vegetables and a tart redcurrant sauce with it – it is a rich dish to remind us that the Autumn chill is just around the corner!

We will then serve a selection of cheeses with our homemade porridge oat biscuits and Banana Jam

To complete the feast we plan to serve a glazed lemon curd tartlette with a compote of fresh blackberries and a dollop of clotted cream – fresh French pressed coffee as they say across the pond with some homemade peanut butter butter fudge should round it all off

If you wish to reserve your spaces then please just complete the booking form below and we will normally contact you within 24/48 hours to confirm your reservation with a credit card number

Arrival Time: 7:30pm – Welcome drink & Seasonal Nibbles

Dinner Served: 8:00pm

Suggested Donation: £35 per person (Service not included)

Menu

Smooth Chicken Liver Parfait served with

Homemade Onion Relish

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Crispy Confit Duck Leg with Roasted Root Vegetables and a Redcurrant Sauce

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Hari’s Assorted Cheese Selection with Porridge Oat Biscuits

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Glazed Lemon Curd Tartlette with a

Blackberry Compote & Clotted Cream

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Coffee & Fudge

Independence Day… Happy 4th July

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Well I cannot believe it has been two years since we last attempted a totally alfresco dinner… we will endeavour to  do so again this year (weather permitting) and what better day than to make a night of it on Saturday July 4th when we will serve up an American themed dinner in our garden terrace setting.

We will welcome guests with a drink and some simple nibbles (monkey nuts and freshly popped corn very likely!)

We will then serve up a couple of platters for dinners of loaded nachos and some spicy deep fried chicken pop corn that will be shared out on each table.

For the main courses we will then serve up either a Texan spiced pulled pork burger bun or freshly grilled Salmon Fillet bun with a dill sauce all served up with freshly dressed slaw and French Fries. The choice is yours…

To complete what we hope will be a fun night we will then serve you either a chocolate fudge brownie with vanilla ice cream and pecans or a Strawberry Shortcake with Strawberry Sauce. Simple fare that we hope will get the party started.

Finally we will then serve what across the pond they call French pressed coffee with home-made peanut butter fudge.

Arrival: 7:30pm Welcome Drink & Nibbles

Dinner 8:00pm Prompt

Suggested Donation: £30.00 per person (Service not included)

 Menu 

Loaded Vegetarian Nachos

Popcorn Chicken with Hot Salsa

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Texan Pulled Pork Burger, Slaw & String Fries

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Grilled Salmon Sandwich with Dill Sauce, Slaw & String Fries

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Home-made Strawberry Shortcake with Strawberry Sauce

or

Chocolate Fudge Brownie with Vanilla Ice Cream

& Toasted Pecans

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Coffee & Peanut Butter Fudge

Menu subject to market purchases and ingredient availability

Please complete the Booking Form and we will confirm your spaces normally within 48 Hours

Vive la France, Brasserie Zedel…

A little bit of France can be found in the heart of London’s West End… it was a Saturday and I was in town with Mrs HC, her sister and my fussy eater BIL for the VE Day celebrations on Horse Guards Parade – we needed a place to eat before the evening’s festivities.

I had been a few times to Brasserie Zedel, a mammoth basement restaurant at the back of the Café Royal a stones throw from Piccadilly Circus right in the heart of the West End. We had booked a table for 2:30pm as we wanted to leisurely kill a few hours before we had to sit outside for the musical and retrospective extravaganza being filmed for airing later that evening.

You enter the establishment via the café with its street tables and bustling atmosphere within. There is a staircase that delivers you down or a pair of efficient lifts (for the less energetic or in-firmed) that bring you to a lobby area with cloakroom.

Zedel-Brasserie-highres (8)Leading off from this there is a dimly lit “American Bar” with white jacketed bar staff,  of an evening “The Crazy Coqs” a night club/live cabaret venue and then a vast open door way leads you into the brasserie, resplendent with gilt and ornate columns with a real bright and airy buzz to it. In fact both Mrs HC and SIL immediately cooed appreciatively for the look and clever lighting making you think it was all naturally lit.

We were efficiently shown to our table to the right of the entrance deposited with true Gallic charm and flourish. Menus on large printed A3 sheets were proffered and we relaxed with our swiftly ordered and delivered pre luncheon drinks. As we all perused the menu the fussy BIL was relieved to find a good choice of classics he could partake of… for some strange reason they had even given him the English version of the menu whilst the rest of us drooled over everything from the classic set menu of the day to fresh oysters or classic Alsacienne Choucroute!

It seems an enormous choice but is very cleverly constructed of some classic combinations and real comfort food. Our choices made we settled down to soak up the atmosphere… It was buzzing with virtually every table full of guests eating at various stages and the waiting staff in white starched aprons bustling with laden trays to their waiting stations… pure poetry.

IMG_7367We had opted for a mix of dishes from the smooth chicken liver parfait to a French Onion soup with gratinated cheese crust and a coarse terrine “en croute”.  All were swiftly delivered and consumed with much passion! The main courses chosen ranged from a crispy Duck Confit leg on a bed of cabbage and bacon, to classic Bœuf Bourguignon, a truly unctuous beef in red wine stew with a creamy mashed potato. I myself stuck to a perfectly cooked (medium rare) Onglet Beef Steak served with a little bucket of fries and a rich shallot & red wine jus. Fantastic.

Wine flowed, beers for the BIL slipped down with ease and we continued to soak up the atmosphere. It was made even more authentic by the arrival at about 3:30pm of a large group of diners all dressed up to the nines in their best 1940’s garb… one even looked the spitting image of the “Queen Mother” Queen Mumin her sky blue tailored suit and perfectly set hair do. The Gents in their Oxford Bags or Military uniforms, the ladies with their well groomed hair, pencil lined stockings and sensible shoes and pheasant feathered hats all added to the VE Day look… we felt totally transported to a bygone time and were amazed at the efforts made! They really did turn heads!

Now feeling pretty replete we opted for a few of the desserts, Mrs HC loves a Lemon Tart so plumped for that and duly announced it was totally awesome and ranked as one of the best… SIL went for IMG_7371the Crème Brûlée which she also declared as near as perfect… I went for the “chocolate” Gateau Praline that had Mrs HC in true to form  continually diving into as well as her own. The BIL abstained and continued to sip yet another French beer.

Lunch had been a resounding success and some two and half hours later we surfaced to daylight and a stroll back down to Horse Guards parade to take up our positions to watch that evenings entertainment…

On a day of oft raw emotions we had managed for a few hours to transport ourselves to the centre of Paris and a genuine brasserie culture but also back in time to the mid 1940’s – what more could you wish for!

Brasserie Zedel 20 Sherwood Street, London W1F 7ED

Thou shall hev a fishy on a little dishy….

Dance ti’ thy daddy, sing ti’ thy mammy,
Dance ti’ thy daddy, ti’ thy mammy sing;
Thou shall hev a fishy on a little dishy,
Thou shall hev a fishy when the boat comes in.

– From “When the Boat comes in”

Well, we are an island race and surrounded by water and this month’s menu will reflect the abundance of fish and shellfish that we have on offer.

I have also decided to use various cooking methods as well as culinary influences in the menu. The starter is  the new classic of South American origin – a Ceviche – citrus marinated raw fish. I will use salmon matched with avocado all served like a cocktail in a glass with crispy tortilla chips – a light fresh starter.

Next up will be the classic of a seared scallop that will be served with a lush green pea puree with its natural sweetness, salty crispy bacon and then a mint oil will add other flavour dimensions.

For the main course I will use a “Biblical” fish, John Dory. It is jd2reputed to be the fish St Peter plucked to feed the 5000 with its distinctive black thumb print on its side. A relative of the Haddock and is a fish that only yields 40% of  edible flesh – 60% is bone wastage!

jdI am using the fillets with a delicate beurre blanc sauce infused with spicy flavour of ginger and delicate flavour of onion with freshly chopped chives. Simply garnished with green beans and baby new potatoes… it will be all about the fishy!

Finally we will serve our ever favourite fresh strawberry parfait an “iced strawberry cream” served with a strawberry sauce and some fresh baked shortbread biscuits perfumed with cracked black pepper, perfect with the strawberries that are in full seasonal flush!

It will be a true feast and the boat will have truly come in!

Friday 12th & Saturday 13th June 2015

Menu 

Salmon & Avocado Ceviche with Tortilla Chips

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Seared Scallops with Pea Puree, Crispy Bacon & Mint Oil

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Roasted Fillet of John Dory with Ginger Cream Sauce, Green Beans Baby New Potatoes

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Kentish Iced Strawberry Parfait with Black Pepper Shortbread

Glass of Muscat de Rivesaltes

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Coffee & Petit Fours

Menu subject to Market Purchases and Ingredient Availability

Welcome Drink on arrival. Glasses, Ice Buckets & Water provided

Suggest Donation: £40 per person

Arrival: 7:30pm

Dinner: 8:00pm

To book please complete the “Booking Form” – We will confirm your places within 48 Hours

Over Sexed, Overpaid and Over Here…

Well I certainly cannot vouch for the first two of this infamous statement –  but the third one is pretty accurate when it comes to describing Jeff Kipp the chef patron of a cute little eaterie in Saltwood Green near Hythe. The Saltwood is his baby.

Jeff hails from the “Windy City” across the pond and spent time working with Charlie Trotter a much respected and alas now departed cook. He arrived in Saltwood Green having worked in some pucker establishments in London town and London’s loss is now this sleepy village’s gain on the outskirts of Hythe.

I came across Jeff slightly by accident having been introduced by a chef acquaintance and a few weeks ago I met him when I was helping Jules Serkin on her weekly radio show called Scoff Quaff that is broadcast from just down the road towards Dymchurch! It was a lively programme… you can listen again here

Why I waited so long for an excuse I do not know but I found myself there for a luncheon with my good lady and an old friend (he is definitely older than me – he he sorry Mario!)  We had drooled over the menu on line and were looking forward to sampling the small but well balanced menu. Lunch is a simpler affair whilst dinner has a little bit more involved and complex dishes.

We settled into our luncheon with a celebratory welcome drink – a chilled glass of Prosecco that also contained some Kentish hop syrup – it went down rather well and certainly got the party started!

To get us going we chose a couple of their homemade breads – a soft American style pretzel served with a little ramekin of rarebit and then a Corn Bread with a dollop of tomato relish and goats curd… both were very good.

Having perused the menu my wife decided to go for one of the little plates for her main course… namely a smoked fish cake. Me and my considerably older friend decided to share a plate of Jeff’s Home-made gnocchi flavoured with wild garlic that was on the menu… I had taken Jeff a big bag of freshly foraged wild garlic and a large bunch of wild garlic flowers. These then duly appeared on the resultant starter and very pretty they looked too!

The little pillows of gnocchi had also been lightly fried to give them a slightly crunchy texture… it was an accomplished dish.

Mario chose as his main course a pan seared fillet of sea trout with petit pois, pea shoots, samphire and Jersey royals with a punchy tartare sauce… spring time personified on the plate with beautiful succulent sea trout perfectly cooked.  I went for roasted shoulder of Romney Marsh lamb served with a romesco (red pepper, almond and olive oil) infused mashed potato plus grilled Mediterranean vegetables and a Salsa Verde/Gremolata sauce. The meat was lovely, cooked slightly pink it had a lovely sweet flavour that married well with the earthy mash and the vibrant herby green sauce. Overall another well accomplished dish.

We then decided to partake in a few of the puddings on offer… Mario went savoury with what was described as Stilton crumble with apple & rhubarb… it was a de-constructed affair of apple slices, rhubarb with apple foam little pieces of crumbled Stilton of great provenance and taste… garnished with assorted young shoots it looked a pretty picture on the plate.

My better half chose the home-made Cheesecake with orange and cardamom – it had good oaty biscuit base topped with a vanilla cheesecake glazed with an orange jelly. It was however my dessert that garnered the most compliments. A chocolate tart with a malted milk ice cream and a malted caramel. This was pure luxury and the simple de-constructed presentation made it even more enjoyable (the pastry biscuit base was perfectly buttery and crisp)

Well Jeff has won us over and we are now planning a return visit (hopefully a dinner) it was worthy of the seventy mile plus round trip for us and a perfect way to complete my birthday celebrations.

I do hope Jeff remains over here and well the first two statements in the title will not be an issue either.(Just kidding Jeff)

Go and try it, it’s well worth it!

Saltwood on the Green, The Green, Saltwood, Hythe, Kent CT21 4PS

Take Five Cooks…a report

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Well it was a chilly Thursday and it was chucking it down with rain as I pulled into the Car Park at Redbridge College in Essex. Not my normal stomping ground but I was there to assist a long standing friend with his desire to host a charity dinner with his local college using students and a group of chef friends. Hence the idea of Take Five Cooks was born and Ian Samuels the lead chef was about to see it all come to fruition.

It had been some five months in the planning and Ian had asked me early on to help in the project in a number of ways. I agreed as it has always been my intention to use my supperclub format and connections for charitable purposes and have over the years done some varied charity events etc. This event was to be the most complex and ambitious yet as apart from the assorted egos of the various chefs the challenge was to make as much money as we could for the two charities we were there to support.

The charities are not big well known ones and were very personal to Ian and we had to try make sure that we could raise as much money as possible. The dinner was to be a five course affair, each chef was to prepare a course and then also a canapé as well that would be served with the welcome drink to guests on arrival. We even tried to auction a table for six in the kitchen where guests could see first hand the behind the scenes action (alas no takers)

Well we had managed to sell a total of 39 places that ensured we had a pretty full house for the night. As I checked in and joined Ian in the kitchen we leisurely got stuck into the prep work and with a bunch of willing students who eagerly were doing a good deal of the donkey work for us! As time went by the other members of the brigade arrived, Paul Blackman – pastry chef from Le Talbooth arrived in a massive van and his prepped dessert – his inability to open the van with his own car keys got us all panicked but once unloaded he got on with plating up his dessert of vanilla panna cotta ready for later. Next to arrive was a giant of a man with his hipster beard Jack Boast the Head Chef of Galvins Cafe au Vin along with a former student of the college who now works for him.

Jack then got a few of the students busy filleting fish ready for his contribution and he prepped up his assorted charcuterie for his canapé… the clock was ticking and main course chef Gary Lee of the Ivy was still yet to appear. It was not until almost 6pm just half an hour before the guests would arrive for the welcome reception that he arrived with his assistant. He was relaxed and calm as they quickly started prepping the main course dish of roasted Somerset lamb stuffed with Black Pudding.

One chef alas unable to make the dinner was Matthew Bare as his 2nd in command had broken his leg so he could not get away from his work place. Ian stepped up to produce his contribution a chilled cucumber and mint soup shot.

So wooden boards piled with assorted canapés were delivered to the assembled guests and the evening got off to a start. There was a calm chaos in the kitchen as the chefs went about their final preparations.

The guests then sat and each charity made a quick welcome speech and the food started to come out, first Ian’s dish of pan fried scallops with textures of cauliflower, followed by the chilled soup shot. It was then Jack’s turn as they plated up the assorted Escabeche of Brixham Fish, Mackerel, Red Mullet, Megrim sole and freshly poached clams on a bed of carrots… it was proverbial production line of hands placing items on the plates and waiting staff then delivering to the table.

In amongst this it was yours truly function to get the crowd front of house digging deep into their pockets as we ran a couple of Head & Tails which all added to the fun and ensured the kitchen had time to get ready.

Next came Gary Lee’s main course dish, he gathered all the troops around him and you could see his leadership skills kick in as he demonstrated the plating up of his creation, a pea and mint puree base, fondant potato, slices of meat, carrots and finally some jus and a deftly placed pansy last of all. It was poetry in motion and all the time he was cajoling the troops and the moment he finished he made sure they all gave themselves a round of applause!

There was a real camaraderie amongst them all, especially evident when they all paraded into the room for what is commonly known as the “Santé du Chefs” to genuine warm applause. It was then my turn to run the auction of a range of donated items from a pastry Master Class at Le Talbooth with Paul to meal vouchers for The Ivy and an added bonus of a couple of cookery books and a half day in the kitchen with Gary – it was hard work trying to get the prices up but with some hilarious moments we managed in a few short minutes and some very generous donations to raise just over £4000 from this alone.
Paul served up his very pretty dessert and I completed the meal with my two favourite cheeses, Winterdale Shaw and Stichleton. That was it we had done it… there was a genuine warmth from all and as I drove back home it got me thinking how kind and generous the hospitality industry is. The chefs had come together, given up their time willingly and also managed to get virtually everything they had cooked with and served donated.

Guests had dug deep and supported two local charities that as one later said to me “Cannot even start to thank you for last night! Home-Start Colchester is a small charity and we do not receive many donations, so it is just amazing to be included in your fantastic efforts to support vulnerable and disadvantaged families.”

We raised a total of £6,260 that I know Ian and all involved were immensely proud of. I am also very grateful to those customers of mine that supported the event by hiring a mini bus and venturing from deepest Kent to Essex, bidding for items in the Auction and then a special mention must go to Paul Meyer Photography who gave up his time to come and photograph the event – his pictures are stunning!

What more can we say…

The charities we helped

Home Start – Colchester

Healthy Living Projects

A wild one…

Wild Garlic FlowersWhere is this year going… cannot believe we are already nearly a third of the year through it…

For me the end of winter is signalled by the arrival of a wild food in the form of Wild Garlic or as known by it’s “English” name Ransom. The broad green leaves that poke their heads up in wooded areas from about mid march onwards remind me that warmer weather is hopefully around the corner and we should also start seeing more abundant seasonal produce in our baskets.

Posset's on Parade!!!This months dinners will feature the foraged herb in the starter and main course (to a lesser extent) and then a true spring fruit fresh rhubarb married to a tart lemon posset!

To book this event then please complete the booking form below and we will contact you normally with 48 hours to confirm your places.

Arrival: 7:30pm Welcome Drink & Nibbles

Dinner: 8:00pm

Suggested Donation: £40 per person

Service not included

Assorted Seasonal Canapés with a welcome drink

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Wild Garlic, Pea & Prawn Risotto

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Herb Crusted Roasted Rump of Lamb

with minted crushed Jersey Royals

Haricot Vert & Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

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Hari’s selection of assorted Cheeses

with Porridge Oat Biscuits & Banana Jam

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Lemon & Rhubarb Posset served with a warm home-made shortbread

Served with a glass of Muscat de Rivesaltes 

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Coffee & Petits Fours

Menu Subject to Ingredient Availability and Market Purchases